Bidder for Ivorian Cocoa Shipper Is Said to Miss Payment Date

(Bloomberg) -- The liquidation of Saf-Cacao, one of Ivory Coast’s biggest cocoa exporters, has stalled after the favored bidder for the company’s assets failed to make a first payment, according to people familiar with the matter.

Last month, liquidator Alain Guillemain approved the sale of Saf-Cacao to a unit of Prime Group of Companies in a 170 billion CFA francs ($296 million) deal after considering two final bids for the shipper’s assets, people familiar with the situation said at the time. Prime, headed by Moroccan national Karim Bouhout, failed to make a payment of 40 billion francs by the Oct. 19 deadline and missed extensions granted after that date, three people familiar with the matter said this week, asking not to be identified because they’re not authorized to speak publicly about the matter.

The initial payment is required for working capital while most of the remaining 130 billion francs was supposed to be in installments for creditors, said the people. The liquidator hasn’t yet decided whether to give Prime more time to pay or begin a new process of inviting bidders, said the people.

Guillemain didn’t answer calls or respond to a text message for comment. Bouhout didn’t respond to a request for comment sent via LinkedIn. An email sent to the address on Prime’s website didn’t go through.

Saf-Cacao purchased the second-highest volume of cocoa from the world’s top producer two years ago, but slipped out of the top 10 buyers by size for the previous main harvest that ended in March. Delays in the sale of the shippers assets will prolong Ivorian lenders’ exposure to about 150 billion francs in unpaid debts, which has prompted banks to curb financing to exporters and raised the risk of contract defaults.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.